The Mexican who built palaces in Saudi Arabia


An exploration of the study, art and memories of the builder and creator of visual arts, Gabriel Sánchez Viveros.

The architect and visual artist Gabriel Sánchez Viveros does not stop working. He is an all-terrain artist, agile of mind, inexhaustible conversationalist. He values ​​the memories he has to evoke, he says, because they are an essential part of his job. They are the ones that have shaped the character of his work.

Gabriel Sánchez Viveros: Arquitectura y Arte - Líderes Mexicanos

Two are the creative stages of this born in Mexico City in 1962. Well marked. In one, his work as a builder led him to become an architect and interior designer for the royal family in Saudi Arabia. In the second he became a fruitful multidisciplinary visual artist.

“I am a career architect. I have worked a lot in Mexico and abroad. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 15 years, building palaces for the royal family, and I returned practically about seven years ago. I gave myself a two-year sabbatical. From that, a few years ago, I dedicated myself a little more to art, but I decided to use architectural concepts “, he explains from his studio in Mexico City, surrounded by his plastic work and reflects:” All my life I have traveled, I have been involved in everything that involves knowledge ”.

Before turning to the visual arts, he decided to see how far he could take his artistic creativity. But this did not mean that he renounced architecture, but rather resolved to incorporate it into his creative work. The experience of three decades in the Middle East was decisive, and he relates it.

Gabriel Sánchez Viveros

Palaces for the royal family

Located in the port city of Jeddah, one of the most important in Saudi Arabia, stands the Winter Palace, a building without equal in the world, nestled in “an ocean of orange dunes moving with the wind”. It is one of the ostentatious constructions of the Mexican in the Arab country. Its architecture is the product of the hybridization between the Mexican style and the Nash style, which is typical of north-central Saudi Arabia, in which natural materials such as adobe, wood, and palms predominate.

The Winter Palace was built in 2003 as part of the constructions executed by Sánchez Viveros on the orders of the crown prince of the Arab country, Mohammad bin Salmán bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who, after learning about the Mexican’s work, sought him out to ask him to will work for him.

The project included the construction of an atrium in the center of the palace with a visual finish of a fountain guarded by the sculptures of 10 hawks carved in a quarry. These pieces were carved in Mexico by a master stonemason and sent to Saudi Arabia for the architect’s approval.

“I began to occupy the house with the tastes of my client, the needs of his family, with the idiosyncrasies of an Arab country and, also, with what has to do with my origin, with Mexican design. I took workers from Mexico to teach workers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt; I had a Tower of Babel there ”, recalls the builder.

Other projects in Saudi Arabia that are his responsibility are the Villa Africa, a complex with minute African details, totally entrusted to the creativity of the Mexican by the Arab prince after a trip to that continent. The same as a Mexican town, a complex of houses in the peninsular country with the architect’s interpretation of Mexican culture.

“We Mexicans are made to resolve, that is why we shine anywhere. We have the advantage that we are descended from the mixture of various cultures. We have everything to highlight ”, he reflects.

Gabriel Sánchez Viveros

The study

In his studio, Sánchez Viveros has pieces from all the series he has created in recent years. Practically everything that decorates the space is of his creation. His pieces are unquantifiable, the techniques are also diverse: painting, photography, engraving, pyrography, monotype, murals, collage, object art. Several are the works that are in the process right there, along with their work tools.

On a small wooden cabinet rest several ostrich eggshell sculptures that are part of the El Origen series, an exercise, recounts, of destruction and reconstruction. In one of them, from among the broken shell portions, instead of a bird, the sculpture of a hand peeks out with a lit cigarette between its fingers. His name is “The trap”, he assures, “because for me all addictions are a trap.” Next to her, the scale figure of a man approximately 20 centimeters tall tries to escape from his shell, but when breaking it from the inside he has found that it has been sewn from the outside with copper wire. The artist explains that it is an analogy of the bonds of the human being.

No photo description available.

Between lines

Between the Lines is one of his most recent series. In it, the Mexican began to intervene with lines and arabesque shapes in various photographs taken by him in Saudi Arabia, in such a way that, with his action, he interposed aesthetic designs in front of the image, so that the observer is unable to look at the entire image. as if it were a veil over the spectator’s eyes, like a burqa. The purpose, she points out, was to show, with fretwork and aesthetic lines, the perspective of women who must wear the veil in countries like the one she lived in for 15 years. It also includes images intervened with paper, wire, or gold leaf with Arabic motifs. This collection is made up of more than 70 images taken throughout the Middle East and intervened by Sánchez Viveros.

The artist does not stop working. He is currently working on Flora’s Soul, a series in which, on different types of paper, he works to fully perpetuate the floral pigments on each body of work. He is also about to announce the day in May when he will open an exhibition at the Centro Libanés of the Entre Lineas series.


Mexico Daily Post